Minister of State in the Department of Housing John Paul Phelan said he “did not see the point” in musicians and actors weighing into the homelessness debate as they knew “little or nothing about” the issue.
“It’s all well and good for these artists like Cillian Murphy and Glen Hansard, who can most likely apply for artistic exemptions from tax, banging on about housing and homelessness but what exactly are they achieving?” Mr Phelan told the Sunday Independent.
“The Government is working on policies and using taxpayers’ money to get houses built – while they are just complaining from the sidelines,” he added.
Mr Phelan’s comments came after Peaky Blinders actor Cillian Murphy appeared at a homelessness protest outside Leinster House last week.
Speaking at the protest, Mr Murphy said if there was enough “imagination” and “resources” the housing crisis could be resolved.
“I think we all know how serious this problem is and I think we all know that while it’s felt more keenly at Christmas time, it exists all year round and I think you’d probably agree with me when I say that it’s not a problem that needs to exist in Irish society,” Murphy said.
Glen Hansard was involved in the Apollo House protests which saw homelessness activists take over a vacant office block in Dublin city centre.
Fine Gael are also furious with charity and university sectors for not giving the party credit for getting houses built.
“The entire charity and academic sector deny the fact that we’ve hugely increased housing supply of new homes, which is a fact backed up by the Central Statistics Office, and they want that rubbished,” a Government source added.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael was this weekend rallying around embattled Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.
Senior Fine Gael figures insisted they would not try to hide the minister during the forthcoming general election campaign.
Fine Gael plan to double down in their support of Mr Murphy and his handling of the housing crisis.
A Cabinet minister said housing and health will be the big topics during the general election and the party will use the coming months to change the narrative around the issues.
“We have things to say and points to make on both health and housing and we are not just going to lie there and take a kicking from everyone who wants to put the boot in,” the minister said.
Mr Murphy narrowly survived a motion of no confidence vote last week by three votes. Fine Gael is bracing itself for another motion of no confidence vote in Health Minister Simon Harris in the new year when the hospital trolley crisis peaks.
The controversial departure of Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy for a €150,000 EU job and Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness’s announcement that he would not abstain on another motion of no confidence in a minister means a further vote could collapse the Government. The Taoiseach’s spokesperson said last week the Government would not continue if it lost a motion of confidence in one of its ministers.
Separately, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Sunday Independent he would be willing to form a government with any party after the next general election, apart from Sinn Fein.
”My focus is on running the country, resolving Brexit and ensuring that we have a strong economy to reinvest the proceeds back into housing, healthcare and childcare,” he said.
“Whenever the election comes, we’ll be running on the basis that we want to lead the next government and will talk to all like-minded parties and groups after the election other than Sinn Fein.
“We have demonstrated our ability to form governments and make them last, first with Labour, and then with the Independent Alliance, individual independents and through Confidence and Supply with Fianna Fail,” he added.